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Let’s Come To An Understanding

I am a great believer in family, which includes extended family - those that we love that may be born of another mother. Recently I received a call from a dear friend's wife that my friend Wayne in Tennessee was going in for emergency surgery.

Without thought, I made flight plans for the next day, and surprised him in the admissions office. There was no question in my mind as what to do- Wayne is family, and you support those you love.

While waiting to hear from the doctors in the family waiting room, we sat and chatted amongst us, spending tenuous time together. On a trip to the vending machines, I overheard a conversation between a doctor and family member, whereas the doctor was explaining in detail the particulars of the surgery.

As a fairly educated man who has had his share of medical maladies, and I thought to myself "I have not a clue as to what that doctor just said." It sounded like English, but what the heck did he just say?

I have always said, "The four most important people in your life, family aside, are your physician, your lawyer and accountant and your financial advisor. You don't go to your lawyer if you are sick, and you don't use your doctor to prepare your taxes." The answer as to why is obvious - each is trained in his or her field of expertise and of whom you have confidence as a trusted advisor. The question I have for you is this: when they talk to you, do you fully understand what they are saying, or does it seem they're speaking in a strange language? Many professionals feel the need to show how much they learned in college and forget that we mortals have not a clue as to what they are saying. Have you ever met with your doctor and felt totally in the dark as they explain your procedure or lab findings? I find it amazing that we take medicine that alters our bodily functions, yet rarely are we factually and simply told what's in the drug and its full effects. If the doctor gave a full disclaimer of side effects like we hear from the ads for medications on TV, would we ask more questions before popping them in our mouth? I know I would!

Lawyers have a language of their own that is immediately clear if you ever read a legal document. House deeds, mortgage paperwork, wills and trusts: all filled with the "whereas party of the first part in conjunction with the aforementioned party of the second part." What's up with all the "whereas and the party's?" Why can't they just keep it simple and just say "When Harry met Sally" and keep it simple? Why does every paragraph start with "Where as?" Do we really need it? Moreover, do you understand it? If you don't and it's in "legalese" ask them to make it clear and simple "where as" you have not a clue as to what the document says!

Accountants have it tough. With an ever changing tax code, continuing education is a must as our congressional friends don't believe in the KISS theory- Keep It Simple Silly (OK- I cleaned it up). The tax code, being so highly complex, dictates how our tax return is prepared and ultimately how much tax dollars we contribute to support our government, social security system, and a plethora of items we come to find out recently the benefit those of whom don't include us. Nonetheless, we obediently sign our tax return, pay what we are told, and go back to work. Do you ask your tax preparer to explain WHY and WHAT and WHERE those numbers came from? Do you understand your return? Remember, regardless of who prepares it, once you sign it the liability becomes your responsibility. Know what you are signing, and if you don't, ask.

Now... on to "financial planners." Let's be clear- there is no such thing as a financial planner. You are either a Certified Financial Planner™ or you are not. Anybody can call themselves a financial planner, but to be certified means you have attended a rigorous two year program set in place by the Financial Planning Association, passed an all day exam which currently has a 55% passing rate (that's how blasted difficult it is), and do your required continuing education credits, not unlike an accredited accountant, lawyer or doctor. Like all professional, check their credentials, tenure and again, make sure they are speaking in a language you understand. You rely on this person to guide you to your financial future. Be sure they are clear…if not, give me a call- I'm a great believer in the KISS theory!

Oh... and Wayne? Thanks to a great doctor, his amazing wife Sherry and some good 'old Southern love, support and prayer, he's doing great- thanks for asking!

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